Monday, August 10, 2015

Post Typhoon shorts and links sent around this pic of cosplayers using the downed trees left by Soudelor as props... it could have been worse. There's plenty of damageporn around the net, easy to find. I'm not linking to any. Except for a few mountain communities that were pretty hard hit, especially scenic Wulai, it was a pretty moderate typhoon, blowing things around and raining hard. I drove home on the motorcycle, was nearly blown down a couple of times.

Lots happening. China's economy is slowing, even as Taiwan's exports are falling. That's bad news for locals. Until the US restores its middle class with a high minimum wage and universal health insurance and Europe gives up its austerity madness, the world economy will continue to slide. This will not be good for political stability in Asia. At home Taiwan's economy still suffers from the problems we've seen for the last two decades, says the National Audit Office:
Taiwan's economic growth was in line with government predictions, the NAO said, referring to results from the 2014 government general report, yet the labor market still sees low pay and overworking. Both factors result in an unfavorable environment for retaining or attracting talent, said the NAO.
Everyone in Taiwan with skills knows that they can go elsewhere and find work that stops at 5 o'clock and wages that enable them to raise a family. The Ma government, despite controlling both the legislature and the executive, has done nothing about wages, cost of living, etc. Why do you think everyone views the KMT with disgust?

James Soong, just entered the race on Thursday, wants Ko Wen-je, the current Taipei mayor, to be his Veep candidate. Ko has said no several times already. Lots of people are speculating about what will happen, but fundamentally, it's not that difficult. (1) A bunch of legislators will leave the KMT and join Soong. The PFP will swell, the KMT will shrink. (2) Wang Jin-pyng will lead a group of Taiwanese legislators out -- lovin' the way that Soong's attacks on the KMT for holding Taiwanese in contempt reveal the way things are among the mainlander ruling class -- and the PFP will do well and the KMT will take a huge blow. (3) No one leave the KMT.

No matter how you slice it, it's temporary. Eventually, if the KMT doesn't get lost in its ideological wilderness, it can recover some of those factions, if not the legislators themselves. Cold hard fact: Soong can't win, which means that, unless (1) or (2) happens in abundance, his campaign will gradually become irrelevant and Hung will pick up steam as pan-Blues reluctantly decide she is their only choice (a huge block of Blues will stay home, in that case -- recall the 2004 legislative election when 600,000 Blues stayed home). Another one: Soong is 73. As soon as he dies, the PFP withers to a Taiwanese faction alliance, and then to nothing. Every Taiwanese legislator can see these facts and unlike the KMT ruling clique, they are politicians without ideological crosses to sacrifice themselves on. My bet: most will stay in the KMT, as will Wang Jin-pyng.

In Taiwan politics since 1950 the KMT has struggled to suppress cross-regional alliances of local factions from forming -- since, in one sense, that's what the KMT is, so any alliances of Taiwanese threaten its power and, at the same time, its power base. Perhaps out of this wreckage something like that might emerge, or the PFP might grow into that in a decade, but I rather expect it will shrivel to meaninglessness like the New Party. At the moment the best positioned party for the long-term is the DPP...

The pan-Blue camp, distressed at the splits among the Blues, keeps generating rumors that Chairman Eric Chu will somehow replace their hopeless candidate Hung Hsiu-chu, who seems to relish her "death before dishonor!" role of losing KMT candidate. The KMT news organ reports that she maintains she will never be replaced. Happy to hear that. The Taipei Times had a more thorough report on the same topic, with comments from KMT legislators worried about Soong. Solidarity on a KMT legislator who dropped out to find meaning of life.

Key news: the government is running scared. Although university and high school teachers remain a politically cowed group as a whole, though there are wonderful exceptions, it's not enough: the government is proposing "politically neutral" education.
Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) last week suggested the possibility of drafting a political neutrality in education act, and said he hoped that, with the establishment of a transparent and credible mechanism, the educational environment would not be dominated by a single ideology.

Referring to a dispute over controversial changes to high-school social studies curriculum guidelines, which critics say reflect a “China-centric” view, Mao suggested at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday that by adopting such an act, political neutrality in education would have a legal basis, and educational content would not be dominated by a single specific value.
By "politically neutral" the premier means "pro-KMT." When my son took his Taiwan history class in college, the teacher opened the class by saying that Taiwan had experienced four waves of colonization: Dutch, Qing, Japanese, and KMT. The KMT would like to rule out statements like that, and laws like this are aimed at it. They would also like to repress activist teachers, like this guy who actually won NT$300,000 from the city of Taipei for being beaten by police during the Sunflower Occupation last year (progress!). The KMT would also like to fence in the DPP's ability to change the curriculum, and a law like this is just the ticket. Scary, eh?

That's why the DPP must win the legislature.
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Anonymous said...

Diplomat piece on mock ups of Taiwan targets used by the PLA - the GPS coordinates are Lat 42.2337332 Lon 112.745632

Anonymous said...

Do you think that Taiwan should also have a $15 minimum wage?

Wouldn't that help Taiwan as much as it would help America?

Michael Turton said...

Minimum wage is related to productivity. Offhand I wouldn't know the proper level for Taiwan. But a small open economy dependent on exports is a different situation than the world's largest economy in which a few hundred people own everything. US workers prolly should be making around $22, not $15. At $15 wealth is still being transferred to the useless and unproductive institutional investor class.

an angry taiwanese said...

taiwanese dream does not involve a backyard swimming pool. lots of clean oceans to piss in is sufficitnt.

les said...

What does it tell you when orders come back to Taiwan because labor is cheaper than in China?

Mike Fagan said...

"Minimum wage is related to productivity."


Michael Turton said...

"should be related to productivity" my bad.

Mike Fagan said...

So what are you saying, that the minimum wage should go up if minimum wage workers' productivity goes up? Or that minimum wage should go up if the average workers' productivity goes up?

Michael Turton said...

Whatever you wish.

Brian Castle said...

If you want to raise the wages earned by the low-skilled workers in America you should:

1. Hire several dozen thousand of them to build a barrier between America and Mexico to stem the tide of illegal immigration and pay them a decent wage.
* By hiring laborers you reduce the supply and by the law of supply and demand the price of low-skilled labor will increase.
* By reducing the flow of illegal aliens from South and Central America and Mexico you'll reduce the supply of low-skilled labor and by the law of supply and demand the price of low-skilled labor will increase.
* As Caesar Chavez observed, continuing immigration makes organizing the low-skilled labor pool difficult. By reducing the constant inflow unions can be re-invigorated.
2. Once you've created a situation where low-skilled laborers have no problem finding jobs (indicating the over-supply problem has been solved) then if the wages remain stagnant and workers fail to organize you can address. Until then you're trying to legislate against the laws of nature.

*Supply and Demand is not just a good idea; it's the law.

Mike Fagan said...

Or alternatively you could look at abolishing income, food and sumptuary taxes. Or alternatively you could look at wage supplements like a negative income tax - but only in exchange for abolishing the welfare bureaucracies.

It's not actually a difficult problem.